A lack of productivity has been a known issue across the construction industry for some time now. According to the ONS, over the past two decades, productivity growth in the sector has averaged just 0.4% a year. For context, the rate in the manufacturing industry is a much healthier 3.2%.
Why is this the case? The management consultancy firm McKinsey has suggested that the construction industry has been particularly slow to embrace digital technologies, often because of fears regarding the upfront investment needed. But this a short-term approach which risks causing real problems further down the line, when firms are left being uncoordinated and slow in an increasingly digital world.
Digital technology for roofing and cladding contractors
It might initially be difficult to see what role digital technology can play in roofing and cladding. After all, these are physical tasks, requiring physical skills. They can’t yet be completed at the touch of a button, or automated through a mobile app. Surely the productivity of such contractors begins and ends with their own skillsets, and how quickly they can complete a job and move on?
Not quite. There are two key aspects to contract roofing and cladding which have a significant impact on productivity – and which can be dramatically enhanced with digital technology. They are onsite data capture and communicating with others in the business.
Onsite data capture
Various key pieces of information need to be captured by construction contractors whilst onsite, to ensure continuous quality assurance and to enable key tasks to be ticked off the overall project list. Such data ranges from the simple – the affirmation that a particular task has been completed – to the complex – detailed, compliance and quality checks which help to maintain standards and ensure a safe and reliable construction project overall. Information in relation to shift times to ensure that contractors work legal hours, and health and safety checks to ensure that contractors are well-protected and sites kept safe, must also be captured onsite.
Once such information has been captured, it needs to be transmitted back to project managers, schedulers and other key stakeholders so that they can make decisions pertaining to the overall project, ensure that contractors are paid correctly and so on. Obviously, this transition of information needs to be both timely and accurate. Errors can cause process bottlenecks further down the line – or even worse, health, safety and compliance problems. Slow transition of information can leave contractors cooling their heels, or tasks being started later than necessary – all this has a negative impact on productivity.
The role of digital transformation
Typically, construction firms and contractors rely on manual, paper-based processes to carry out these functions. Contractors fill in paper forms onsite. This information is physically collected and taken to project managers at set times. Contractors then wait for the go-ahead to start new projects.
But it doesn’t need to be this way. Digital technology can have an impact all the way through. On the data capture side, contractors can use tablets or smartphones onsite to tick off items on a to-do list, take photos of completed work for compliance and quality assurance, add their electronic signature to contracts and confirm sign-off on individual tasks.
All it takes is the right mobile app, such as WorkMobile, coupled with a cloud-based data storage system so that the information they collect is transmitted in real-time to a format that managers can access.
The result is a far more dynamic and accurate approach to collecting data onsite – and feeding back instructions based on that data. Managers can quickly ascertain when a particular task has been satisfactorily completed, and re-allocate resource to a different roofing or cladding job. The upshot is vastly improved productivity.